Selina Fillinger Shocks US, Humors US, Makes US Think
by Erin Weitzman
While the U.S. has yet to elect a female president, “POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive” features an all-woman cast, set in an impressive White House. Andrew Boyce’s stunning set design and Yi Zhao’s lighting keep the high jinks flowing.
“POTUS” takes us into a beautiful Oval Office with a magnificent starry blue rug. The Presidential Desk rolls in on a sleek platform. For scene changes, striking painted walls drop down—another stunning effect. The stylish set invites us into this hilarious political comedy and puts us in the center of power.
Selina Fillinger’s “POTUS” presents seven vibrant, memorable female characters in stellar roles for women—who are often underrepresented in comedy. The perfectly cast actors do a superb job.
The scenes are comedic, well-paced, and hold our attention. All seven actors develop funny farcical characters with distinct personalities.
First Lady Margaret (commanding Stephanie Pope Lofgren) is powerful and incredibly smart. As the play keeps asking: “Why isn’t SHE President?” Margaret harbors secret passions, and wears some funky shoes, trying in vain to appear more “earthy.” Lofgren leaves no doubt that Margaret could be President—and do a much better job than the offstage, absent “Dumbass.”
When we see Presidential Secretary Stephanie (energetic Susan Lynskey) strike her “power stances” or watch a mini chase with women’s vote pioneer Alice Paul’s statue, we have to laugh. The nervous secretary working on her confidence has some of the funniest moments—running around wearing an American flag and reciting the Constitution. Lynskey has fantastic timing, with one-liner jokes exploding the dramatic tension, making for great laughs.
The president’s supposedly “soon-to-be pardoned” sister Bernadette (tough Allison Guinn) comes straight from prison with wonderfully pointed, raunchy humor. She wins us over with her dirty talk and drug-dealing to the Cabinet.
Playwright Fillinger plants returning jokes in her well-timed plot twists. Beleaguered Chief of Staff Harriet (elegant Deirdre Lovejoy), in short hair and suit, produces T-shirts for girls that say FML—which she thinks means Female Models of Leadership. She evokes a super-competent woman who does all the President’s work—better than he can—and cleans up his many messes. “Why isn’t SHE President?”
Press Secretary Jean (spot on Kim Blanck) fires off witty remarks, hair in a tight bun, sporting turtlenecks. Although Jean tries to keep POTUS in line, his foul comments trip her up, repeatedly.
Irrepressible, brilliant reporter Chris (endearing Dominique Toney) secretly pumps breast milk in the Oval office, while dealing with multiple crises. Chris takes command and thinks on her feet—an admirable woman all round, making us ask again: “Why isn’t SHE President?”
Earthy, midwestern Dusty (lively Stephanie Styles) throws in a big twist with her “dalliance” with POTUS. Dusty has some shocking secrets to share, too. As a positive influence in the White House, she performs an incredible musical number, calming the crazy antics.
My friend and I left repeating the one-liners and jokes to each other afterwards. A must-see!
“POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive” by Selina Fellinger, directed by Annie Tippe, scenic design by Andrew Boyce, costume design by Haydee Zelideth, lighting design by Yi Zhao, sound design by Palmer Hefferan, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Berkeley, California. Info: BerkeleyRep.org – to October 22, 2023.
Cast: Deirdre Lovejoy, Kim Blanck, Susan Lynskey, Stephanie Pope Lofgren, Dominique Toney, Stephanie Styles, and Allison Guinn.
Banner photo: Stephanie Pope Lofgren, Deirdre Lovejoy, & Stephanie Styles. Photos: Kevin Berne